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February 19, 2008

BMD or the brief, monitor and debrief technique is used extensively throughout industry to explain or show a student how to do a particular task. It is a fairly straight forward approach but is often not used to the full extent of its effectiveness. It is also only useful in foreseen or controlled environments because there is no opportunity to prepare the student in unexpected scenarios.

BMD is similar to the OJT cycle. There is a preparation phase, an application or practice phase and finally a feed back or debriefing phase. Each step in the process is equally important and need to be understood independently to be truly effective in the whole process.

Brief: The brief is the preparation step. In its simplest form, it is either explaining or demonstrating a skill, task or concept to the student. It is often rushed or delivered incompletely, necessitating additional actions in the following steps. The way I look at it is: the objective of this step is to only deliver reinforcing feed back (praise) in the final step.

Key points for the brief.

  • Identify the criteria for success. Bottom line up front – tell the student how to recognise success (and failure).
  • Explain / demonstrate the best path. The student need to know how to get to the end state.
  • Identify critical points. These may be critical because of quality standards, time pressure or other risk factors, but these assist self-assessment and prioritising tasks for the student.
  • Highlight anticipated challenges and solutions. Maximise the student’s chance of success by letting them know what to look out for.

The better the brief, the better the performance, the better the learning opportunity.

Monitor: The dictionary definition of monitor is: “to observe, record, or detect (an operation or condition) with instruments that have no effect upon the operation or condition”. In this case the instruments are our eyes and ears. We monitor the student for the purpose of assessing performance (competency) and establishing remedial actions. Unlike the dictionary definition, the trainer can interact to assist or guide the student. This should only be used sparingly and if the first step was done effectively, it will be unnecessary in most circumstances.

Key points for monitoring the student:

  • Observe and record. Only note what you can detect with your senses – other words behaviours and results.
  • Measure performance against known standards. Use workplace standards or agreed goals as the benchmark – do not move the goal posts.
  • Interact only if necessary. Do not assist on a whim. Unless there is a risk to safety, training or the work place; wait until asked by the student (this request may not be verbal).

Debrief: This is the feed back phase of the process and as stated earlier, the goal is ‘all positive’. Of course, there may be circumstances when the purpose of the exercise is to demonstrate to the student failure conditions. In this case, you cannot punish the student (figuratively speaking) for achieving that goal. Remember, in the long run it is far better for the student to be succeeding than failing.

The two objectives for this step is performance and remedial action. During performance assessment we only use known standards and observable behaviours or actual results. This is not the time for some psychology 101. We don’t care why (just yet), all we care about is what happened or simply, ‘just the facts’. When we discuss remedial action or advice, we can pull out the old text books and delve into the ‘why’. Understanding why the student did what they did (see the first couple of posts on mistakes) will assist you identifying the best or most effective remedy.

Key points for the debrief:

  • Use cause and effect. You did this … and this happened …
  • Assess observable behaviours vs known standards. We do not know what the student was thinking.
  • Remedial action. Tell the student how to fix the problem – or better yet, get them to tell you.
  • Reinforce positive behaviours. Praise and discuss how to do better or where else this skill/knowledge can be applied.

Finally …

I know this is a big post but I wanted to get a point across. Its simple, but will not produce results unless you take the time to invest in it. Shortcuts now will just be more work for you in the long run.

Next post SRF.

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